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Algae, new-age biofuel for green tomorrow

delhi Updated: Jun 05, 2012 01:21 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Chetan Chauhan

Dr-Dinabandhu-Sahoo-in-his-lab-at-the-department-of-botany-in-DU-Dr-Sahoo-claims-he-can-drive-the-car-with-algae-and-save-environment-and-petrol-HT-Sushil-Kumar

Algae have emerged as a low cost tool to capture global warming causing carbon.

Algae, a latin word for seaweed, are a very large and diverse group of simple, typically tropical organisms. They are like plants but grow on water. They produce more than 71% of the Earth’s oxygen, as per estimates of some scientists. Carbon dioxide and water are the basic requirements for algae’s growth and this in turn releases oxygen as a by-product. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2012/6/05_06_12-metro15b.jpg

Since its clean credentials are established, algae is become a solution for capturing carbon from vehicular emissions, for providing oxygen to solders in high peaks and for reducing oceanic acidification, algae is providing possible answers to increasing carbon emissions across the globe.

The latest in the spree of innovators in Professor Dinabandhu Sahoo of Department of Biology of Delhi University, who has developed algae based apparatus for carbon capturing and reusing the same as bio-fuel.

Sahoo, who tested over 1,000 algae strains, found a few strains that can capture carbon from vehicle’s tail pipe and around 40 % of the total fluid generated can be processed into a bio-fuel or other oils for different industries.

“The initial cost Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 can be recovered in three to four years,” Sahoo told HT at his laboratory in DU.

Sahoo installed a tank on his Maruti 800 car and filled it half with water having algae. The car’s emission pipe was connected to the tank. As he drove around Delhi, the carbon dioxide from his car was being captured by algae, resulting in less toxic emissions into Capital’s air.

Member of the global association of algae scientists, Sahoo, believes his experiment can work wonders if the government or oil companies promote algae for capturing dirty emissions. “It requires a complete supply chain mechanism where the used algae can be brought and processed to produce bio-fuels,” he said.

He believes that investing in algae based solutions make sense as India imports 70% of fuel oil and its dependence on imported fuel would increase in coming years. Algae also have advantage over jatropa as it can be grown in any temperature and in varied environmental conditions.

Orissa appears to have taken a clue and launched Rs 95 lakh project to grow algae around polluting thermal power plants in Angul district of the state.

Such are the benefits of algae that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has decided to use them to provide oxygen to solders in high altitudes in Ladakh in J&K.

Although India is now waking up to wonders of algae, countries like US, China, South Korea, Canada have invested heavily on technologies to capture carbon with help of algae and produce bio-fuels.

E-sensibilities laid to waste